| 13°C Dublin

Guilty plea Irishman described as world’s largest child porn purveyor faces up to 27 years in jail

Eric Eoin Marques, who was born in New York but has dual citizenship, is due to be sentenced by a US court later today

Close

Eric Eoin Marques. Picture: Paddy Cummins/PCPhoto.ie

Eric Eoin Marques. Picture: Paddy Cummins/PCPhoto.ie

Eric Eoin Marques. Picture: Paddy Cummins/PCPhoto.ie

An Irishman who has been described as the world’s largest purveyor of child pornography is facing up to 27 years in prison as part of a new plea deal with US authorities.

Eric Eoin Marques, who was born in New York but has dual citizenship, is due to be sentenced by a US court later today.

The 36-year-old was extradited from Dublin to Maryland in the US in 2019 following his 2013 arrest.

Marques pleaded guilty in February 2020, as part of a plea agreement, admitting that between July 24, 2008, and July 29, 2013, he conspired to advertise child sexual abuse by operating an anonymous hosting service on the dark web.

Investigators found what appeared to be more than 8.5m images and videos of child abuse on the Freedom Hosting server, according to a court filing that accompanied Marques’ guilty plea.

In an April court filing, a prosecutor said a government witness was prepared to testify that investigators had identified Marques as the largest purveyor of child abuse imagery in the world and that he had made approximately $3.6m (€3m) in US currency from his servers.

The deal between Marques and Justice Department prosecutors is designed to satisfy a judge in Maryland who rejected their original agreement, which called for a prison sentence of 15 to 21 years.

During a hearing in May, US District Judge Theodore Chuang described the initial plea agreement as “too flawed” and said he was inclined to give Marques a longer sentence than 15 to 21 years.

The judge criticised a provision of the plea deal that wouldn’t give Marques credit for six years he spent in custody in Ireland while fighting extradition after his 2013 arrest in Dublin.

Chuang said he can’t tell the federal Bureau of Prisons to refrain from counting those years when Marques likely is entitled to get credit for that time.

“It’s not going to be 21 minus 6 to 15. That’s not going to happen,” the judge said.

Sunday World Newsletter

Sign up for the latest news and updates

This field is required This field is required

The new plea deal calls for Marques to receive credit for the time served.

Defense attorneys outlined the new terms in a court filing on Friday. They said a 21-year prison sentence would be “fair and just” for Marques.

Marques’ lawyers also urged US District Judge Theodore Chuang to impose a condition of supervised release that would allow Marques to live in Ireland, his home nation, after he completes his prison sentence.

The darknet is part of the internet but hosted within an encrypted network. It is accessible only through anonymity-providing tools. Marques’ service enabled users to anonymously access millions of illicit images and videos, many depicting the rape and torture of infants and toddlers.

Marques’ lawyers say he made money from his legitimate web-hosting services, not Freedom Hosting.

“Though the contents of many of the websites it hosted were despicable and unlawful, the evidence shows that Freedom Hosting was a free service until just before Mr. Marques’ arrest,” they wrote in Friday’s filing.

Download the Sunday World app

Now download the free app for all the latest Sunday World News, Crime, Irish Showbiz and Sport. Available on Apple and Android devices


Privacy